In Praise Of Not Knowing Things

I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it.”


You must be wondering what I’m reading at the moment. “Neuromancer” by William Gibson, is an 80s classic apparently. I can’t follow the plot at all. I have no idea what is going on but the words sound good. It veers between a real and “online” world in a way that seems very influenced by William Burroughs, another author who seemed ahead of his time, or at least seeing where it was heading. I had an obsession with him after hearing his voice on a Bill Laswell album and, like a bobby socked Sinatra fan, thinking he was speaking only to me. Burroughs is impossible to make sense of. I think I read almost everything he has written; no joy with any of it. I love it. What is he on about? It’s impossible, it’s….unfathomable. What a great feeling to be in the middle of all that.

Of course music, like everything else, is an eco system. It needs multiple levels in order to operate. There needs to be some stuff going on that draws people in. And that can be interesting too. A lot of people love Ahmad Jamal, Dave Brubeck, Mozart, despite the complexities and subtleties therein.

But still.

I remember going to see Chick Corea’s Elektric (sic) Band in Lewisham when I was about 19 years old. How do they do that, I thought, they all land at the same time. It’s like they go blah blah da da. Dadadada. Blat.


And then, tralala, they all end on the same beat.

Well, after a couple of years of experience, I realised they just practised a lot, until it was right. And the improvised stuff was just like language, you have to think about it for a quite a while, and then, after ageing these thoughts on oak casks over several years, you suddenly instinctively know it. And that was the end of my love affair with Chick. Because after that, there was no mystery. No reason to listen. I fathomed it. After that I started to gravitate to music that sounded easy, but wasn’t.

So here’s my idea for a new press release, just ideas at the moment, nothing definite.

“After hours of agonising and detailed thought, practice and sketches, here is my new album. There are no photos of me with it, because wasting time on thinking about how what I look like is related to what you hear takes away valuable brainpower that you will be needing to try and understand this largely unfathomable music. The extensive liner notes, written in needlessly small font, merely serve to further muddy the waters. The music was constructed using partly instinctive, partly mathematical systems. These were developed over thirty years of working in countless musical situations. Occasionally these systems might yield what used to be called a “tune”, but no one is perfect. There will be no “You Can Improvise For Five Minutes A Day Before Your Important Meeting At Work” free app that goes with this music. Please enjoy the idea that, quite probably, you will never be able to do this, in the same way that I will never be able to follow plot lines in novels. You might like the sound of it though, and perhaps enjoy being mystified. Because to understand marks the end of something.”


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